LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 19, 2022) — Lt. Aaron J. Lueke knows a thing or two about hard work and determination.
A U.S. Navy nurse and a first-generation college student, he has always yearned to be a part of something larger than himself.
For Lt. Lueke, that meant being the first in his family to earn a college degree, leave school without debt and join the military. While it was not the easy path, it was the only path for him.
To achieve the first step, earning a college degree, he attended a university in his hometown of Louisville. While there, his life and his family’s took a drastic turn.
In 2011, during his first semester of college, Lt. Lueke’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was during this time that he discovered his calling: nursing.
“Seeing the nurses provide care and advocate for my mother is something I wanted to deliver to other families during their times of need,” Lt. Lueke said. “As a nurse, you are the face of patient care, and their families will remember and associate their health care experience with you forever. Patients and their families need a nurse who will work endlessly to provide the care and compassion they deserve.”
With a declared major of nursing, it was now time to work toward achieving the second step in fulfilling his goal, graduating without debt.
To do this, at the age of 18, while taking a full course load, Lt. Leuke began working nightshifts at UPS. A position not for the faint of heart. Through a partnership between UPS and the state of Kentucky, his tuition was fully covered.
Lt. Lueke admits that during this time his grades started to slip and at times he wanted to give up, but he worked hard to push past any feelings of doubt and diligently worked to get his grades up.
He says this drive comes from his father.
“My father served as a U.S. Marine; like him, I wanted to serve my country,” Lt. Lueke said. “This life goal was the motivation I needed to help me work the long hours and be dedicated to graduating. I knew graduation would lead me to be able to serve as a nurse in the U.S. Navy.”
After graduation, it was time for the last step — joining the military.
In 2017, Lt. Lueke commissioned as a naval officer and now serves as a critical care nurse in the Navy, stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. It was here that he realized his journey of being a part of something larger than himself was not over.
That is where the University of Kentucky comes in.
“Being able to graduate from UK has always been a life goal of mine. My whole life I have been a diehard Wildcat fan,” Lt. Lueke said. “I remember watching players like Tayshaun Prince and John Wall while growing up with my dad. In the Navy, everyone knows I’m a Kentucky fan. If I’m not wearing a uniform, you’ll always see me representing Big Blue Nation in the land of Duke and Chapel Hill.”
In hopes of becoming a more encompassed leader for Navy Medicine, he will attend UK this fall seeking a master of science in nursing healthcare systems leadership.
“The Master of Science in Nursing Healthcare Systems Leadership online program allows me to become a Wildcat while serving my country in operational and deployed settings all around the world,” Lt. Lueke said. “By expanding my knowledge in health care systems, I can help accomplish the mission of the hospital’s leaders while advocating for the goals and needs of nursing managers.”
For students like Lt. Leuke, UK’s online programs are essential for furthering their education. With more than 80 degrees and certificates offered 100% online, UK is here to support the achievement of wild ambitions, no matter the location, no matter the goal.
“Education in any format opens one’s mind to new possibilities,” Debra Hampton, assistant dean of MSN and DNP programs, academic coordinator of Graduate Leadership Programs and associate professor at UK’s College of Nursing, said. “In online programs, students can network with peers from other states and organizations, allowing them to build professional relationships and gain new learning perspectives that otherwise would not have been available to them. The experience and pedigree of earning an advanced degree in nursing from UK gives our graduates a valuable edge when competing for sought-after jobs.”
“The University of Kentucky provides many different degree paths for both traditional and nontraditional students, such as myself,” Lt. Lueke said. “For veteran and active-duty students, UK cares about your diverse work settings and will work with you in order to be successful in your education aspirations.”
Through the power of online education, UK’s reach extends far outside the Commonwealth.
Although Lt. Lueke resides in North Carolina, he is now officially a part of Big Blue Nation. But it is not just his ID that determines that — it is his grit, passion and perseverance that truly make him a Wildcat.